Associate Professor

Today I officially begin my Associate Professorship in landscape architecture at the Aarhus School of Architecture.

Together with my good colleagues at Platform Urbanism & Landscape I will be building, dreaming, drawing, talking, walking and writing (occasionally simultaneously!) landscapes of the past, present and future. But most importantly I am humbled by the fact that I get to stand on the shoulders and follow in the footsteps of brilliant teachers in landscape architecture before me. People that have shaped my understanding of landscape architecture as an aesthetically and ecologically grounded discipline in which the sensuous goes hand in hand with a fundamental care towards our common surroundings.

Most importantly my own teacher Preben Skaarup who is not only an incredibly gifted teacher and landscape architect, but also, during my own studies, gave me the most important advice of my career and to whom I am deeply grateful.

In her Fantasiens Have (1993) writer extra-ordinaire Malene Hauxner describes how the Nordic modern garden, in the talented hands and minds of G.N. Brandt, C.Th. Sørensen, T. Erstad, A. Andersen and more, offered:

[…] openness, resurrected sensuality fulfilling the wish for fellowship with animals and plants, and an anti-authoritarian life, which would leave room for individuality and imagination and thoughts unbound. The point was that nature, once brought into the garden, could be used not only to demonstrate something but to encourage users to think for themselves.

There are many good things in this small quote, but especially Malenes last point is important. It is, I think, a prerequisite of beauty: That it is open towards the possibility to invest one-self in it and that it makes room for engagement, imagination and participation.

It is, maybe more than ever, the responsibility of landscape architects, among others, to ensure this openness and thus to approach nature, in all its forms and variations, not only in terms of what nature can be used for – or what it is worth for us – but as some other thing in which we invest ourselves as a way of giving something back to our surroundings. In his Forests – the Shadow of Civilisation (1993) Robert Pogue Harrison reminds us ever so eloquently that nature, after all, is a profound part of what it means to be human in the first place.

Later today I will walk along Dead Creek and the urban habitat we are in the middle of developing. Everyone who wants to join me in my walk – despite the cold and snow – are more than welcome to meet up at Ormslevvej 55, 8000 Aarhus C at 2 pm!

Approaching Landscape Laboratories

For five great days from December 2nd to December 6th I visited the good people at the Faculty of Architecture at Liege University to talk and walk experimental landscapes and discuss Scandinavian experiences with the landscape laboratories in Alnarp, Snogeholm, Sletten and soon-to-be-Aarhus.

I was in the good company of passionate people like Catherine, Rita, Paul, Roland, Erik, Jitka, LarsOla, Martin and many more who are all engaged in critical thinking about and practicing new urban habitats.

Apart from giving two presentations of our new and ongoing landscape laboratory experiences in Aarhus I walked the Meuse Valley along the Meuse river and visited both the former and current botanical garden of Liege. The first garden being just outside the doors of the Faculty of Architecture, the latter being on the forested slopes of the Ourthe valley south of the Meuse River.

Also, I had the great pleasure of walking old terrils in Martinet near Charleroi close to the border of France and, driving home through a winter cold Germany, the former military airport of Kalbach Bonames, which has been converted into a new urban habitat just outside Frankfurt.

A River Walker

I am a river walker.

For a full day in October I have been following the water of Hansted Creek through the tunnel valley of Store Hansted – shaped over millenia by ice and water – to where it runs into the estuary of Nørrestrand and Horsens Fjord a few hundred meters from where I live.

It is my fourth walk following the water of creeks and rivers. The Aire Walk along the moving garden of the Aire River in Geneva being the first – with more walks in urban watersheds to come in the future.

Hansted Creek does not only run through a major part of my everyday landscape being the rolling hills north and west of Horsens placed as it is south east of Gudenåen where I grew up. It also runs through Egebjerg Meadows, which was one of the last wetland areas to be drained through state funding in Denmark and – coincidentally – one of the first areas to be restored in the late 1990es.

From Egebjerg Meadows and onwards to the bird sancturary of Nørrestrand the creek runs through old seabed making my walk – once again – a walk through time.

I am a river walker.

Arkipelaget – Book launch at Kunsthal Aarhus

The Aarhus School of Architecture will host a book launch of Arkipelaget issue #4 – 6 at Kunsthal Aarhus on October 8th at 4 – 6 pm.

Arkipelaget #6 is entitled LUCUS and includes some of my photographic work on forest clearings. Also, I have written a text about landscape photography in which I describe my photographies as double images:

“At first sight, they depict their subjects, but on closer perusal (more or less visibly, so to speak), they reveal the opposite angle and a shadow portrait of the reflective photographer at work ((Wenders, 2001). In that sense, my camera is a lucus in itself. It is a transformational space, which intermittently allows light into the negatives, which constitute the physical foundation of the photographs.”

Some of the photographies in LUCUS were recently exhibited at the Aarhus School of Architecture.

 

Into the boreal with the Danish Art Foundation

With great support from the Danish Art Foundation I am now working on a larger project, which will shed new light on urban forests and nordic landscape architecture – the focus of my own research.

The first part of the project is beginning to take shape and over the coming months I will be venturing into the boreal of Norway, Sweden and Finland to work on the next pieces of the project.

I look forward to show the results during 2015.

 

In the forests of Latvia and Lithuania…

I have just arrived home from a seminar in Riga on closed cities and sites and a short study trip to a series of former military sites in the forests of Latvia and Lithuania.

Together with a handful of good colleagues I among other things visited the now derelict military city Skrunda-1 in Latvia and the nuclear missile base Plokštinė at the shores of Plateliai Lake deep in the Lithuanian Plokštinė Forest.

While the Plokštinė missile base has been turned into an EU-funded Cold War Museum, Skrunda-1, which was once one of the most strategically important early warning radar and surveillance locations during the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries, is slowly but steadily transforming itself into a ruinous urban forest integrated in the forests surrounding it:

Walls, hallways, cellars, rooftops, balconies as well as former supermarkets, kindergardens, apartments, boiler rooms, prisons, guard towers – with all their Soviet propaganda – have over decades of neglect been transformed into spaces of transition pointing both backwards in time to the silent horror of a cold war that had serious consequences for the occupied countries in the Soviet Union and onwards to a possible new site-specific nature of the future.

Landscape Experiments and a walking exhibition

I have had the great pleasure of working for a full week with good colleagues, almost 150 bachelor students and the land artist Mikael Hansen on what has been the first workshop in the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory.

Together with good man Martin Odgaard I have been working for more than half a year on creating the foundation for the landscape laboratory and there are still a lot of work to be done. So it was a humbling experience to see so many students among the hawthorns, hazels, heat pipes and muddy waters along the Aarhus South Highway in Dead Creek Valley!

The students worked in collaboration on 15 landscape experiments and the beautiful results were exhibited in a week long walking exhibition, which was a first possibility for the public to see the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory from the perspective of students.

 

Road trip to Sweden

I look forward to a one-day road trip in good company to Alnarp in Sweden tomorrow.

Together with my colleague Martin Odgaard I will be visiting old friends Anders and Roland at SLU to talk landscape laboratory. Of course, most of our visit and talks will take place in the field while walking the laboratory – the most wonderful meeting fascilities around!

Our goal is to further qualify the design and planning of the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory, but if we are lucky we will be able to bring home some of their magnificent 2013 laboratory honey:

Honey Bees at SLU

150 walks

In the spring of 2014 I am co-running an assignment for 150 bachelorstudents.

The assignment will take place in the Aarhus River Valley and to some extent build upon my article The Chocolate River and Gardens of Change, which I wrote in 2012 for the IFLA World Congress in Auckland, New Zealand.

As part of the assignment all 150 students will be asked to use walking as an integrated method in relation to their design work. This in order for the students to experience the valley of the Aarhus River as a three-dimensional map of the site’s territorial substrate addressed not to the bird’s eye view, but to the thinking body of the walker; engaged in the breadth and depth of the river territory. Donald Schön in his book The Reflective Practicioner describes a similar approach as a reflection in practice, a thinking with ones feet (Schön, 1983).

The intention was for the students not necessarily to find their way but to get lost; to loose themselves in the changing landscape of the Aarhus River Valley and in the process discover something they did not aim to discover before setting out on their 150 walks.

 

Spring exhibition in Aarhus

During all of May and June 2014 I will be exhibiting a selection of photographs as well as sound and video installations at the Aarhus School of Architecture.

The exhibited works will be selected from some of the series and projects I have been working on in 2013. To coincide with the exhibition a few of the works will be published by Antipyrine in an ARKIPELAGET double publication together with an essay by me on landscape photography.

I will serve local tapas and beer during the reception in May (to be announced). I hope to see you there!